Upcycling: How to Breathe Life into Your Old Content

- 7 minute read

If Google’s continual algorithm changes throughout the years have taught us anything, it’s that marketing content should rarely be set in stone.

Given how much information people are exposed to on a daily basis through places like social media, web users these days are demanding the freshest news and data wherever possible, with those lagging behind usually being forgotten about.

It’s a situation every content marketer has encountered and struggled with before,

What is Content Upcycling?

In digital marketing, upcycling refers to the process of re-visiting older, potentially underperforming content to update it.

Think, is there a page you haven’t updated in a while? Or is there an article you haven’t looked at since writing it a few years ago? It’s possible that the information within it is outdated and no longer relevant. At which point, you’re faced with a dilemma: do you delete the pages and start again? Or do you update those pages to match search demands and reader interest?

Choosing Content to Upcycle

Unfortunately, deciding which content is worth updating isn’t straightforward. There are numerous aspects to consider. Here’s everything you should be thinking about when choosing your next upcycling project:

Timelines

Perhaps the number one deciding factor around whether you should upcycle your content revolves around the time it was written. If you’re referring to old data or calling back to events that have happened in the past, your content could be seen as being lesser relevant these days in comparison to a continually updated piece of information.

Quality

As you continue to create content, over time, your skills will naturally improve. As they improve, so will your content. However, this does mean that your past articles and web pages may make you want to recoil in embarrassment.

Spelling mistakes, grammatical complications and generally poor topic choices do little to satisfy the intent of searchers, leading to low click-through rates and poor engagement metrics.

Sometimes, a piece can have a very strong topic, but its execution is what ultimately lets it down. Thankfully, such a scenario isn’t a bad position to be in, as it presents a good chance to make a substantial improvement.

Performance Statistics

Sometimes, a piece can be well written and presented, highly relevant to your audience’s interests, and hosted on a technically sound website, but still fail to perform as expected.

This is one of the more frustrating positions to be in with upcycling, as diagnosing the cause of the failure can prove tricky.

Why It’s Better to Upcycle Than Delete

At Foundation, we highly discourage the deletion of content unless it is necessary.

The reason? Deleting a webpage has all sorts of SEO complications, the highest profile of which is the introduction of 404 web pages. Linking to a 404 page is a major SEO no-go, as broken links do nothing to enrich the user experience and, if anything, they make them worse.

Backlink Retention

You’ve worked hard for the links pointing to your articles, it’d be a shame to lose the link equity you’ve accrued simply due to some slight performance degradation.

Instead of removing the page and starting again, editing what you’ve already got could be a more viable alternative. Doing so ensures that your domain continues to benefit from backlinks, while also giving more opportunities for improvement in other areas.

Keyword Rankings

It’s very possible that your articles and landing pages can rank for keywords that weren’t originally intended.

Deleting a page sets this progress back to zero, reverting any progress it would have otherwise made. This is why it’s much more favourable to simply change your existing content rather than start from scratch. The changes you make may erase any keyword progress, but it’s better to keep a known page in circulation rather than introducing something radically different.

Google Sees You

It’s not just your readers that will notice when your content changes; search engines like Google are too watching for the changes you make to your pages.

As outlined in the Helpful Content Update, Google notes that it’s better to update an existing piece of content rather than delete a page and create a new one. Just be sure to update your publication dates when doing so, as this will act as another indicator that the content has changed in some way.

Reverting Bad Performance

Your old content could be doing much more harm to your site than you think. How many times have you started reading an article or a webpage to find out that the information in it hasn’t been updated in five years? It’s frustrating, as the knowledge you’ve spent considerable time researching is suddenly completely irrelevant to your interests.

Such a scenario is enough to cause readers to bounce right back out of your website, something that search engines can track. Websites with low click-through numbers and high bounce rates are seen less favourably in results pages, causing your website’s rankings to drop.

How to Upcycle Your Content

After identifying something’s up, you’re probably wondering where to get started with upcycling:

Figure out the Problems

Based on the above, use your new-found content auditing knowledge to take a closer look at some of the older blog articles you have. While doing so, ask yourself a few questions:

How high is the bounce rate? Remember, a bounce rate of 50% is deemed very good.

How long are people staying on the page? Look at your session duration metrics.

What goals are being completed? Are people clicking from this article to another desired page like a landing page? Do they complete a checkout?

Are my references out of date? Try and get as close as you can to current times.

What’s the traffic looking like? Try comparing organic to direct visits, and see which aspect your pieces struggle with the most.

Research Around the Topic

The number one way to start bringing your older content in line with what Google is looking for is to do some research.

Run some searches around the topic at hand and see what types of pages come up first. Are they listicles? Roundups? How to guides? If so, you should consider amending your content to be more akin to these successful pages.

In short, try taking the best parts of each top-ranking page and adding them to yours.

Check Your Analytics

The number one way to determine if your content needs to be upcycled is to review its performance.

Perhaps one piece has less organic sessions than others, or maybe the session durations are a bit low. Whatever your findings, use this knowledge to guide the types of changes you make to each page.

Low Sessions

For pages with low pages per session numbers, try improving the internal linking carried out throughout the piece, or improving your regular written call-to-action to make it a visual one. Low session counts can usually be handled via some outreach on social media or journalistic promotion, or even by improving the number of keywords associated to each article.

Low Session Duration

Low session durations usually imply that your content is failing to grasp user’s attention, which can sometimes be fixed by re-organising the layout of the piece. For example, if your findings/core contribution to knowledge from your article is way down the bottom of the piece, your readers may be failing to get there, clicking off sooner than you’d like.

High Bounce Rates

High bounce rates are sometimes explained via aesthetics. Poor imagery, lacking white space and information density are the most common underlying factors leading to high bounce rates. In short; make sure your content is visually interesting, well-spaced and digestible.

Should You Delete Old Blog Posts?

We are strong believers that every piece of content has potential. As the saying goes, there’s no such thing as a bad idea.

How this potential is realised, however, can vary greatly. Sometimes, an idea can be born out of a brainstorm session that doesn’t immediately land on your website as an article, but instead steers the conversation over to another topic that does make its way there. The only way to really flesh out your content to its best capacity is to have these discussions, try out some options, and make adjustments.

Deleting a blog post should only ever be a last resort. We only recommend doing this if you’ve exhausted all other opportunities to extract useful material from it.

How Long Does it Take for Google to Remove Outdated Content?

Google is continuously aiming to make its results better for its users. Part of that aim is to eradicate as much outdated, irrelevant content as it can.

Although using publication times and dates can lead Google to make some decisions, this alone isn’t enough for it to go off. Thankfully, website owners can manually notify Google of any outdated content via Google Search Console’s Removal Tool.

Users simply submit a URL for inspection/removal, before Google takes action and prevents that page from coming up in search results for at least 180 days within 24 hours of being notified. After this period, however, the page will be re-indexed, potentially at a lower rank than it previously was.

Need Help Fixing Your Site’s Content?

Is your site outdated? Perhaps you have pages that are massively underperforming compared to others.

Whatever the situation, Foundation can help. Our team of content marketing experts have years of experience in the digital marketing sector, bringing with them all sorts of knowledge on what pages you do and don’t need to upcycle. Get in touch with us today to speak to our team and arrange a consultation.

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